The third and final Barr letter discusses the Confederate shelling of the cavalry camps between Westover and Harrisons Landing on July 31, 1862. While I’ve seen several accounts of the incident that we included in our book, I don’t recall an account of the punitive expedition that crossed the river afterwards. Burning every house sounds like a bit of exaggeration.
It seems unlikely that this would be Barr’s last letter to the paper over the next two years of his enlistment. At a minimum I would have thought the band’s detachment from the regiment and attachment to Pleasonton’s headquarters would have drawn comment. I haven’t been able to locate any additional letters, however.
Columbia Spy August 18, 1862 page 2
Head Quarters 6th U.S. Cavalry,
Harrison’s Landing, Va., Aug. 4, ‘62
Again I send you a few items of news, which I hope will be interesting to your readers. War news have been a little below par with us for some time. On the night of the 31st of July, at about twelve o’clock, we were aroused from our peaceful slumbers by the booming of artillery. We turned out of our tents in “double quick,” and found the shot and shell coming into our camp as thick as hail. The Rebels had opened on us from the other side of the river, from five different points. Every person was taken by surprise. Soldiers and civilians were seen flying in every direction, filling up every safe place that could be found. Some were in groups behind bales of hay, while others were behind trees; the firing was kept up for an hour, when they were finally compelled to retire, no doubt by the appearance of two or three gun-boats, which threw a few hundred pound shells in among them. The only damage done in our camp was one horse killed, some few tents ripped, &c.; what was done to other camps I have not been able to hear, but it is supposed to be slight.
At 6 o’clock P.M., August 1st, two or three regiments of infantry, cavalry, &c., were landed on the other side of the river, just opposite our camp. They had not been there many minutes until every house on the river bank was burned to the ground, the burning timbers and stone chimneys coming down with a crash. The yelling of the soldiers could be heard for miles.
Today, August 4th, we have news from the other side of the river of the capture of some few prisoners, five pieces of artillery, and the destruction of a rebel camp. Soldiers could be seen marching up and down the banks with turkeys, chickens, geese, &c., suspended from their bayonets. Col. Tyler’s battery of five siege guns are now planted on the river bank, about two hundred yards in rear of our camp, which I think, will send them to the last hole if ever they try it again. All is quiet at present along the river, the only enemies we have to contend with now are the flies and mosquitoes; they march in upon us in whole brigades, while “Old Sol” comes down with a vengeance.
I am told that “Bowery” is coming out with a company. Michael, can’t you manage to send a keg of lager with him; and let him stop at the quarters of the 6th U.S. Cavalry Regimental Band? He will find the happiest set of boys he ever beheld. Oh, whew! But it’s hot! And our friend Lewis Trodenick, is sweating as much as any of us. Lewis is as jolly as ever, and has come to see the sights.